In August 2018, Heidi Urich, Douglas and Janine Cohenz met with the School of Dialogue students. Heidi and Douglas are descendants of Sierpc Jews and committed genealogists who visited Poland as part of the 38th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy – the largest Jewish genealogy conference in the world, which in 2018 was organized in Warsaw.
The guests received a set of materials prepared for them: a detailed map of the pre-war town and documents concerning their families’ history. After a brief meet and greet, the students took the guests on a walking tour of Sierpc Jewish sites they have developed as part of the School of Dialogue program.
The tour included a stop at the house of Abraham Neumann (a painter who studied under Jacek Malczewski), at the rabbi’s house, the place where the synagogue once stood, the former ghetto area and at the cemetery where the participants lit candles.
The guests were very impressed with the involvement of the local community in finding historical information about the visitors’ families. The students surprised them with new information and included into the tour the plots of land where the houses of their ancestors once stood. The guests had the opportunity to compliment these stories with their family tales.
The program is co-financed by Malka and Pinek Krystal Scholarship Fund.
On Sunday, August 25, the president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston, USA, Heidi Urich, who traces her roots back to Sierpc (a small town 75 miles from Warsaw) visited, together with her husband, the local School of Dialogue.
Young graduates of the School of Dialogue program in Sierpc and their teachers welcomed their quests and took them for a tour of Jewish sites in their town. They were accompanied by the school principal Rev. Stanisław Zarosa SAC, head of the local documentation center Tomasz Krukowski and school historian Dorota Ossowska who supervised the School of Dialogue program in Sierpc in the fall of 2012.
Heidi found the experience to be moving and emotional, as she said, “A group of Polish middle school students was showing me a building that once housed the Jewish library and another that housed the town rabbi and a Jewish school. They pointed out the site of the handsome wooden synagogue destroyed by the Nazis and the borders of the Jewish ghetto established by the Nazis. At the Jewish cemetery, they lit lanterns they had brought along at a monument to remember victims of the Holocaust. I was impressed with the quality of the tour and with the students’ pride in presenting what they had learned in researching their town’s history. Neither would have been possible without the vision and expertise of the School for Dialogue program.”
In May 2014 Forum for Dialogue organised visits for the representatives of the American organization Facing History and Ourselves in 5 schools that participated in the School of Dialogue program: Błonie, Grójec, Radzymin, Sierpc and Sokołów Podlaski. Forum’s educators ran the “get-to-know each other” workshops and the pupils showed the guests the places in their towns connected with the Jewish heritage.